Whitetail Savvy – by Eddie Claypool

May 2005

Here are some key elements that go with arrowing monster bucks with a bow

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

May 2005

When it comes to a pursuit such as whitetail bowhunting there is only so much gear that can be bought and information that can be ingested.  Also, there are so many that try to cut corners on the road to success.  Inevitably, it is only experience that can produce results.  Certainly, some of the bumps in the road can be lessened by gleaning knowledge from others and/or using quality gear.  Such being the case, I’d like to offer you some of my personal do’s and don’ts on this subject.

GET REAL
Don’t set yourself up for a fall”  In today’s high-tech hunting world, the image projected is one of the top-end success.  Every media outlet ingested by the whitetail hunting public continually spits out image of big bucks, along with tactics and gear that will produce them.  The fact is even the most consistently successful trophy whitetail bowhunters (the average do-it-yourselfers) are unsuccessful 99.9 percent of the time.  Let me clarify that – for every one hour I’ve spent in the presence of a trophy whitetail buck, I spend 999 hours trying to get there.

I started my whitetail bowhunting career 30 years ago at age 14.  I didn’t harvest my first trophy deer until I was 28 years old, my second at age 30 and my third at 32.  Somewhere around this point, I seemed to get a clue in relation to the big picture involved in top-end success.  It was at this point that I became obsessed with the desire to consistently bow-kill trophy whitetails. I made the lifestyle commitments that were necessary to pursue this goal – it was a tough row to hoe. Now, a
dozen years later, I’ve reaped the consequences (both good and bad) of having put forth the top-end effort necessary to achieve my goals. I relate all this as a means of showing the ladder of bowhunting maturity that I’ve climbed. In summary let me say this -don’t plan on starting at the top or on skipping many rungs of the ladder. Set realistic goals, bowhunt and be happy with the deer you harvest.

PRIORITY #1
You Can’t Get Blood out of a turnip: Because of my tremendous success at consistently bow-killing
large-antlered bucks over the years, I’m constantly aware of the fact that many people feel that I must have some supernatural powers in this field. Fact is, I don’t. I refuse to be like many of the other so-called experts that feed on this misconception.

When it comes to the truth of how and why I’m so successful, one thing is clear: The answer isn’t rocket science – I hunt where the big bucks are. For me, this requires travel. Give me some time and a little gas money, put me in my old pickup truck and throw in an ice chest full of food, and
I’ll find a good place to bowhunt.

Yes, in today’s world, outfitters are quickly tying up all the good spots, yet there are still places available to the do-it-yourselfers who are willing to expend the time and effort necessary to ferret them out. Get behind the wheel and start knocking on doors. Find good hunting the old fashioned way -after all, the satisfaction involved in accomplishing this should be a large part of
what the overall bowhunting experience is all about anyway.

The Zone
Timing is Everything I’m blessed to have been able to arrange both my work and personal life into a system that provides me with plenty of time to bowhunt each autumn.  The fact is that few other blue-collar bowhunters can accomplish this task. At best, most bowhunters can invest no more
than two weeks at one time into a hunt. Let me say this -that’s plenty of time to take a big buck if your’ve done everything else to be prepared.

Over the past dozen years, fully 90 percent of my big bucks have been harvested during a three-week time frame-Nov.4 to Nov. 24. No surprise there, right? At no other time of an entire three-month bow season have I been able to come up with a way to consistently harvest
trophy bucks. If you’ve got a way to get the job done outside this peak-rut time, more power to you. If not, this approach to success: Spend your off season time accessing and scouting excellent habitat. You should scout/hunt your area in October during the weekends. In early
November, take a couple of week off work and be prepared to spend all day in your best-bet spots.  I carry a badlands 2200 Series backpack loaded down with everything (Scent-Lok clothing included) necessary to accomplish this task.

FLEXIBILITY IS KEY
An Open Mind is your Greatest Asset: One of the greatest mistakes that the average bowhunter makes is to go afield with pre-conceived rules concerning whitetail deer behavior and/or hunting tactics. For many years when I first started to become serious about my bowhunting, I followed a fairly ridged approach in relation to how I determined stand locations, hunting times and tactics.
I’d read a lot about whitetail hunting and the behavior of the deer themselves. Other experienced (?)
hunters had also fed me a lot of so-called facts. I knew the rules by which the game was played…right?

For years, I had bowhunted according to average mainstream  advice. I reaped exactly that kind of result – average.  With time, I began to realize that something was missing. I don’t know why it took so long for me to finally reach my day of revelation, yet when I did, it forever changed my entire bowhunting life. Let me try to articulate the gist of my brilliant revelation. If you re deer hunting, you’re deer hunting, and you’ll kill deer. trophy bucks aren’t deer, at least in a normal sense. Average hunting locations, times, tactics and efforts will produce average deer, which trophy bucks aren’t.There is nothing normal about consistently bow-killing trophy whitetails so it would be safe to say that to do so must require a willingness to go out on a limb-in other words, depart from normal locations, times, tactics and efforts.

When I finally grasped hold of this mentality, it rocked my bowhunting world from top to bottom. I began to hunt longer, in off-the-wall places, and outside mainstream tactics.  By throwing out a lot of the knowledge that I’d been conditioned to believe was the gospel, I began to become a real student of the deer and their environment.  With time, I began to develop a hunting approach that was based on feel. In other words, I simply hunted wherever, whenever and for whatever reason I wanted. If I had any far-fetched question in the back of my mind about anything, I searched out the
answer. I began to accrue experience (outside the bubble),
confidence and, finally, success” I was finally over the hump.

Sign Off
Waylay Big Bucks in Travel Corridors: It sure is exciting to find a honey hole-a place where big rubs and scrapes are so concentrated that the hair on the back of your neck stands up. No doubt, finding such a place is the epitome of all scouting efforts; a sure ticket to consistent success on trophy bucks, right?  Well, yes and no. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on that.

From my perspective, finding a concentration of deer sign of any kind is important -it’s another piece of a big puzzle. However, my goal isn’t to find any one piece of a puzzle, then guess what the big picture is. It’s my goal to put enough of the puzzle together to make a highly educated guess as to the composition of the entire picture. When it comes to consistently bow-killing mature rutting whitetail bucks, this is the best that anyone can do.

Once I feel that I have the big picture, I put into perspective the areas of concentrated deer sign that Ive found. concentrated sign is usually found in two places-feeding areas and bedding areas. Such being the case, I refuse to hunt in either location due to the fact that doing so will quickly begin to educate and/or relocate the deer. It is my choice to hunt from a low-impact approach. In other words, I leave the deer alone in their areas of high interaction so they remain at ease and feel free to move about unconcerned. I don’t even like to hunt between doe bedding areas and their feeding areas. Basically, I leave the does entirely alone if possible. As long as I know the general area where the does bed during the day, I’ve got the knowledge that I need. It’s my goal to intercept mature rutting bucks as they move from one doe concentration to another It is a fact that bucks use certain perennial travel corridors to accomplish this task. The real trick comes in locating these travel corridors because, as a general rule, they contain very little deer sign and are often viewed as non-traditional and/or unproductive habitat.

Finding and hunting these big buck travel corridors requires a good mix of savvy, confidence and patience. You must be willing to take a leap of faith and stick to your guns to make this
approach work. It’s been my experience, however, that in the final analysis, the rewards far outweigh any other approach to success on large-antlered whitetails.

GOT SOLID
Mental Confidence is Critical To Success: If you’ve done everything necessary to become a savvy big buck hunter, one of the greatest things you can do to make the moment of truth successful is to be rock solid in your ability to make the shot count. It doesn’t make sense to go through the entire process necessary to bring the deal to fruition, then not be able to consummate it.

For some time after I became fairly proficient at placing myself in the immediate presence of big bucks, I had dismal success at getting them bow-killed. I plainly remember thinking the same thought again and again- I’m not sure I can make a killing shot”-and usually I didn’t. I knew that this had to change-soon.  It seems funny to me now but as I look back on the reality of those times, one thing was apparent: I was so wrapped up in my infatuation with learning everything about the deer and how they moved through their habitat that I totally neglected my archery equipment and shooting competence. As I said, this cost me more than a few big bucks.

After a few years of missing out on some excellent opportunities that I knew should have resulted in dead deer, I faced the facts and decided to make some changes. Outfitting myself with top-end gear, I set about working on my shooting skills. For most of one off-season period, I experimented with different bow, arrow and rest combinations. I played with broadhead and arrow fletching setups. I tested different front-of-center combinations, draw weights and varied draw lengths. I tried different releases and shooting techniques. I practiced “till the cows came home,” and to say that I learned
a lot would be an understatement. By the beginning of autumn I’d refined my equipment setup and shooting form to a new level.

When I took to the woods that year, I felt completely different. No longer would the moment of truth find me second-guessing my abilities. I absolutely knew that I could drive nails with this rig, and I intended to prove it. This newfound confidence in my shooting ability actually translated into a mental peace that had been missing before. Little did I realize just how much this confidence had permeated my subconscious mind and would later express itself in an ability to remain calm, and execute properly, when faced with the adrenaline rush of a big buck encounter.

The following autumn came and went. At the end of the season I’d shot three arrows, at three big bucks, and had cleanly harvested all of them.  Having eliminated a major flaw in my trophy-hunting armor had taken me to an even higher level of success than I’d ever thought possible.

These days, I never go afield without top-end gear and the ability to operate it at such a level.
Currently, my archery gear consists of Mathews bows, Bodoodle rests, a metal pin sight by PSE, Beman shafts, Rocky Mountain broadheads
and a Scott release. <–<<

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